When Kelby Cavness moved to Summit County, she was shocked that the schools here didn’t offer any programs in dance, an activity she grew up doing in elementary school through high school and even in college.
“I feel like a lot of people are so focused on skiing out here that I wanted to bring something to benefit, specifically little girls, and also just to help out all of the working parents,” Cavness said.
So she started Summit Dancers, an afterschool program that focuses on community involvement and school spirit while stressing education. The program runs throughout the school year at Upper Blue Elementary School on Mondays and Tuesdays and Summit Cove Elementary on Wednesdays.
“It’s hosted right in the cafeteria, located right at the school,” Cavness said. “The kids come down to the cafeteria, we begin with a healthy snack, take a bit of a break to wind down for a few minutes and then we start homework, and that lasts 20 to 30 minutes, depending on if they have homework and how much they have.”
The final element of each two-hour session is, of course, dancing.
“It makes it really convenient for the parents because we get done right about when they are getting off work, so it works well for everyone,” Cavness said.
Important to community
Cavness started the program last year with only two students enrolled, but Summit Dancers immediately started growing, finishing the year with 10 children. This year, the program grew to 30 participants, mostly through word of mouth and buddy days, when kids could bring their friends to class.
“I think the convenience of the location being right there at the elementary school and incorporating everything, the homework, feeding the kids, it makes the parents feel comfortable that they know where their kids are,” Cavness said.
Summit Dancers is becoming more important to the community as the kids perform at community events, she said.
“It’s getting kids involved in the community and also the parents, as well, and making them aware of what’s going on in Summit County,” she said, adding that getting kids involved with their community at a young age helps them to be bigger contributors in the future. “Hopefully, they’re going to want to continue being involved the older they get.”
The afterschool program is currently open to kindergartners through fifth-graders from any elementary school, both girls and boys.
“Boys are definitely welcome — we did have one little boy this last year,” Cavness said. “It really is directed more toward girls but we incorporate hip-hop and jazz and stuff to make the boys have fun, as well.”
Along with her assistant director, Lara Dobson, Cavness said she hopes to someday expand Summit Dancers to the middle and high school levels. She said having the homework element and being located right in the schools sets the program apart from other dance studios and programs.
At Summit Dancers’ end-of-the-year party on Tuesday, May 20, participants were rewarded for their positive attitudes, ability to pay attention and helpfulness, among other qualities. They also watched a photo video of moments from their practices during the past school year and performed a group dance and individual routines that they had choreographed themselves to show off their moves to their parents.
“Throughout the year, we really talked about working together as a team, respecting your classmates and teachers,” Cavness said. “In some classes, we’ll divide the kids up into groups and let them make up their dance routines, so it’s teaching them how to work together, stay with positive attitudes and they get recognized for that.”